Late-night revellers looking for a cab ride home from downtown bars could soon have to pay a $50 deposit before they get in, just in case the party accidentally 'spills' over into the taxi.
That's just one of several ideas city councillors will examine at their meeting Tuesday as part of a sweeping reform of the city's rules for taxis. The changes would put all taxi companies into one zone, allowing drivers to pick up and drop off passengers anywhere in the city, except the airport.
The fee cabbies could charge people who get sick in their cabs would be for late-night passenger pickups downtown. It would be an attempt to address a chronic shortage of taxis at the 2 a.m. bar closing times. Under the change, cabbies could charge anyone who gets sick in the cab $50 to help pay for cleanup. It could be required ahead of time, but would be returned to the customer as long as nothing happens in the cab during the trip. A survey found drivers avoid the area because of unruly passengers who either make a mess or get sick in the back of cabs.
“Taxis, in fact, avoid the area due to the fact that their cars are often violated and that it can be considered a dangerous area for taxi drivers, as well,” the report says.
In addition to allowing all cabs to serve downtown, the changes try to address the shortage by allowing drivers to charge the $50 cleaning fee ahead of time, either in cash or pre-authorized credit car payment.
While a long time in coming, changes to the bylaw were prompted by the decision last year to give one company the contract to serve the airport – which had a dramatic effect on cab companies across Greater Sudbury.
The old rules date back to amalgamation at the turn of the century, and were meant to ensure smaller communities had taxi service. They split the city into two zones – basically the former City of Sudbury in Zone 1, the rest of the city in Zone 2. Zone 1 drivers could only pick up passengers in the old city, but could drop them off anywhere.
Drivers in Zone 2 could only pick up passengers outside of Sudbury, but could take them anywhere. At one time, holders of Zone 2A licences were allowed to serve the airport, as well, until the airport awarded the contract to one company.
Last summer, the city agreed to convert Zone 2A licences to Zone 1, to give taxis spurned by the airport a source of income while a new bylaw was prepared. That decision concerned companies already operating in Zone 1, who viewed the Zone 2A drivers as unwelcome competition.
On Tuesday, city councillors will get a look at the proposed new taxi bylaw, which proposes eliminating zones, but capping the number of taxi licenses in Greater Sudbury at 131, to try and ensure cab companies can make a profit. A separate class of licenses would be created for the Sudbury Airport only, in case future expansion there creates the need for more cabs.
The bylaw would also change the way fare increases are calculated, creating a new price index that includes costs other than increasing gas prices. While fares in the city are in the “upper middle” compared to similar municipalities, Sudbury is behind in how it determines increases, the report said.
“This index would take into account insurance rates, gas prices, and other costs relating to operating a taxi,” the report said. “It is recommended that the bylaw be updated to have the more sophisticated Taxi Cost Index be used on an annual basis, and therefore it would be used in the next review in September of this year.”
Other proposed changes:
-The number of cabs be limited to a formula of about one taxi for every 1,200 citizens
-Drivers be required to get a Vulnerable Sector Check, rather than the Criminal Record Check
-The age limit for all taxis be set at 10 years, the current limit for Zone 2 drivers
-All cab company owners carry $2 million in liability insurance, as is already the case for Zone 1 drivers
-Taxi license renewals be scheduled on drivers' birthdays, to avoid a flood of renewals all at once